My life was nice from the start, with a quintessential Americana childhood in a tiny Midwestern town. I always knew I was a lucky little kid with a magic creek in our woods and a veritable petting zoo in the barns and pastures. Mom instilled a love for creative projects and the satisfaction of being a maker and a giver. Dad inspired big picture thinking and a belief that I was different, special and that life was for fun. A Bachelor’s in Marketing and Research from Ball State University expanded my passion for connecting people to products and ideas. Thereafter, an MBA from Kent State University taught me how to apply it.
Enter karma. After graduate school I applied for a year-long international position with no stipulations on “where” in the world I would be. I was awarded a position as a marketing consultant in Hyderabad, India. There, in a city I’d never heard of (“because there were only 9 million people”) I threw myself head first into the Indian culture including deep beliefs in the law of Karma. I loved my work, spent months with a private tutor to master the art of Mehndi and most importantly, I learned the power of influence. As the first American woman and just the fourth non-Indian (it was 1993) to live in this city of “just” 9 million, I leveraged my minor celebrity status to speak out for women’s rights and issues I felt were important. I touched every single “untouchable” I met, to the shock of many around me (including the initially confused then ecstatic “untouchables” themselves). Living in a land where karma is considered a natural, constant state of life, reinforced the never-ending, inevitable return of what we put out into the universe. This later inspired the boomerang logo of A Nice World.
Nonprofit Experience – I returned to the US and landed a dream job as the first Diversity Outreach Specialist for Girl Scouts of California in Stockton, which at the time was the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. I worked with and befriended women and girls from dozens of cultures including Laos, Cambodia, Hmong, and many other countries and I founded Girl Scout troupes at migrant camps for the daughters of farm workers. It was in California that I joined my first of many Boards of Directors (the Volunteer Center of San Joaquin County), which exposed me to hundreds of nonprofit organizations changing lives.
Connecting People – As a consultant to the State of California directing an HIV epidemiology/ prevention/ intervention study, I brought together people from all walks of life, from healthcare professionals and research scientists to nonprofit leaders, individuals of HIV positive status and at-risk groups such as needle users and workers from the sex industry. Our award winning proposal epitomized the fact that the best solutions are collaborative and we all have a role to play. In Tucson, I chaired an effort for many years, connecting kids (eventually, in all time zones) with one moment of positive, focused thought, which included school curriculum, teacher’s tips and discussion topics to help kids grasp and wield the power of their own thoughts, outlook and attitude.
Cause Marketing – With the fortuitous move to Tucson, Arizona I stepped into the for-profit world with a nonprofit twist. Working for a national chain of family entertainment centers I launched a comprehensive Cause Marketing campaign partnering with a dizzying array of nonprofits. Business flourished, the nonprofits benefited and families were inspired to do a little good when they had a little fun. It was the late 1990s and Cause Marketing was a relatively new concept. I authored a Cause Marketing guide book and presented the concept to national audiences. It was great fun to illustrate to so many, how being good is good for business.
ED Experience – I went on to found and serve as the Executive Director for a 5013c which granted funds to help youth thrive, one kid at a time. It was immensely gratifying raising over a million dollars and awarding unique, individual awards and grants to thousands of inspired, inspiring kids. To connect and learn with other EDs I formed “SANE” – the Society for the Advancement of Nonprofit Executives comprised of smart, fun, uplifting fellow EDs to the benefit of all.
Creative Endeavors – Tucson is rich with art, music, creativity and inspiration. It was here in the Old Pueblo I took advantage of an abundance of community education classes and friendly mentors, learning stained glass, welding, and silver jewelry sculpting. I’ve had great fun supporting and celebrating many laudable nonprofits from Juneteenth to The All Souls Procession and many in between. I’m proud to have been named the Tucson Humane Society’s Humane Individual of the Year. Because I was creating Nice Braille jewelry, I collaborated with a visually impaired artist, adding Braille to her canvasses which led me to the best coincidence of my life (IOU a blog post on that story). It was in Tucson that I reached out to the owner of The Coyote Wore Sideburns, to ask her to illustrate a children’s book I had written, which led me to be the first person offering Mehndi (henna tattoo) in Tucson and to there at the same salon, meet the woman who most influenced my spiritual path and to whom I credit the wealth of manifestations that followed, including my dream house, where I sit and type this now, overlooking beautiful Tucson, Arizona.
It was also because of Mehndi at the Coyote at the Fourth Avenue Street Fair that I was exposed to fire performance art and on the spot, blown away. I’ll never forget, then and there, powerfully resolving that I would BE A FIRE DANCER. I visualized it like my life depended on it. Within a year I had learned the art of spinning fire poi (as seen in this photo by Jeff Smith). I learned from the best, in fact from Nadia Hagen herself, Artistic Director of Flam Chen, arguably the finest pyrotechnic troupe in the world. Being a fire dancer became a wonderfully fulfilling inroad to perform at fantastic events and to volunteer for great causes. I’ve made a lifetime of friendships working with many nonprofits, fellow performers and lovely audiences.
Utopian Society – Fire dancing eventually led me down the path to Burning Man, a life changing place where thousands of unique and inspiring individuals come together to build a city and live by the Ten Principles – concepts I now embrace throughout the year. I have performed in Fire Conclave around the Man burn, the largest fire performance in the world and made friends, experienced wonders and inspiration I couldn’t have previously imagined.
Realizations and Revelations – Life’s synchronicity led me to explore new ideas and ways of thinking. I took advantage of fortuitous connections and opportunities to learn Tarot, numerology, Tai Chi, to study meditation and Buddhism and anything that sparked my curiosity. This, and mentors along the way, led me to Nichiren Daishonin (SGI) Buddhism and its study of cause, effect and the Law of Attraction. The outcomes of positive thinking and positive expectations were immediate and at the time, I would have said “shocking” – but now these are outcomes I have come to expect.
The Law of Attraction – I soon shifted from my lifelong stance of “optimism” to “sureism,” expecting only the very best. This practice continues to bring me joy as I discover and appreciate the work and teachings of Abraham Hicks, Neville Goddard, Florence Scovel Shinn and others. What a treasure trove of inspiration. Understanding my role in the outcomes and the experiences of my life has taken the joy and excitement of life to new heights and it is my pleasure to share the links, info and influences.
Birth of a Website – In the early 90s the world wide web was starting to become more a part of life. I was drawn to create a site and to do so, read and used Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I launched NiceGift.org, offering stained glass sun catchers aligned with (and raising funds for) ten nonprofit partners. Over time, I shifted the site to aNiceWorld.com sculpting jewelry one piece at a time in precious metal clay (PMC). The Nice boomerang was born and I launched the Braille jewelry line. At the time I hadn’t heard of or previously seen Braille jewelry and it inspired me to create more “secret messages” and to add hidden meanings to many Nice designs.
A Nice World Reborn in Wax – On April 10, 2014 I struck up a friendship with Alex Streeter, an extraordinary New York based jeweler who had miraculously relocated to the heart of Barrio Viejo in Tucson. I’d met Alex a year or two prior thanks to the connecting of so many artists and creatives through Bohemia – An Artist’s Emporium in Tucson. Alex is not just an incredibly skilled, storied artist. He is the most vibrant, brilliant, fascinating and positive person I’ve ever met and a pure laugh riot. He was curious about PMC and together we created a piece which he then cast. This opened my eyes to lost wax casting and I soon took Alex’s advice to “Record the song and then print the records.” Thanks to the casting process, I can sculpt a single signature item in wax or PMC, then cast any number of perfect replicas in sterling and bronze, raising more money (a whole lot faster) for Nice nonprofit partners. This led to a total re-launch of A Nice World.
The NOW – That’s really all we have, isn’t it? This glorious NOW between past and future and we have the ability to create and celebrate it. A Nice World is my attempt to do a little bit of both at once. I’m grateful that people relate to and enjoy Nice jewelry because the fun is in the collaboration and that’s what makes it so NICE.
The Future – That was a whole lot about me, and now it’s your turn. Drop me an email and tell me about yourself, what you care about and how we might collaborate and co-create to make the world a nicer place. – Jill